SciTechBlog
March 9, 2009

Economy hits Second Life

Posted: 10:29 AM ET
While many retailers in the real world suffer, some still are still opening in Second Life.

While many retailers in the real world suffer, some still are still opening in Second Life.

We know the economy is not doing so well in the real world, but what about virtual worlds? More specifically, Second Life, which has its own economy and system of money. iReporters in Second Life have been sharing stories of how the real world economy is having an effect on the economy there - and the outlook is mixed.

“I am quite amazed that lots of businesses in Second Life still push for higher prices when so many people in the real world are losing their jobs," Second Life avatar Janey Bracken said.
"As Second Life expands with so many new people coming in lately, you wonder if less people will actually be bringing money into the virtual world, as it's going to be way down on the list of real-life expenditure as the credit crunch tightens.” Read her iReport

iReporter Wil Perian interviewed other Second Life residents on the changes they were seeing. “As the real life economy is a bit more unstable, Second Life will be a bit more stable," said Czari Zenovka, a business owner in Second Life. "One dollar goes a lot farther in Second Life than real life." Read more about this on iReport.com.

Jojogirl Bailey, another avatar business owner, told Perian, “I really think it is affecting folks who were spending large amounts of real money to fund their Second Life stuff.”

According to Linden Labs, the owners of Second Life, the number of total unique users with “positive monthly Linden flow” has actually increased in the past six months, though it did drop from September to November.

iReporter Martyn Vantelli spoke with avatar Kirsty25 Brune who is trying to start up a Second Life employment agency. She tells Vantelli, “I have met a lot of people that want this to work that already have businesses and need employees.” However, she has found that setting up her new business is not so easy. Read more about the employment market in Second Life

Despite these challenges, most of the iReporters and interviewees in Second Life are hopeful for the future. As Perian says, “The economy continues to go down and rarely do we hear some positive news. Perhaps it is Second Life that is giving us that bit of hope.”

Check out more iReport news at the iReport Blog.

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Filed under: economy • Internet


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September 23, 2008

After last week, $8 billion for a broken collider doesn't sound like so much.....

Posted: 11:19 AM ET

The Large Hadron Collider won't be unlocking some of the mysteries of the Universe for a while. It's broken. LHC's operators says they'll need at least two months to warm the collider up from its near-absolute-zero temperatures and fix a portion of it.  (Update:  CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said late today (9/23) that the collider will not be ready to re-start until spring 2009).

A section of the Large Hadron Collider, which straddles the border between Switzerland and France.   (CERN Photo)

A section of the Large Hadron Collider, which straddles the border between Switzerland and France. (CERN Photo)

It's been called the biggest science project ever: $8 billion in funds and years in research, some of it from the US Department of Energy. The potential payoff? Unlocking some of the deepest-held secrets of physics, like how matter comes together.

After a week in which we committed, or considered committing, as much as a trillion dollars toward cleaning up the financial industry's mess (most of it from U.S. taxpayers), we're looking back at the wide range of opinions that this blog's readers rolled out about the project. There were four basic groups:

1) Folks who wanted to turn the collider into a religious (or anti-religious) statement. I'm not going there, and I regret that so many commentors took a science blog in that direction.

2) Those who feared that the collider would create a black hole, then suck us all into it. The depth of scientific due diligence on the project says that this is an impossibility.

3) Many who were genuinely stoked about the potential for discovery here. I'm with you.

and 4)  Those who thought that $8 billion is too much to spend on something like this.

It's this last group that I want to address:  sure, there are lots of things we could spend $8 billion on now - like feeding several billion of our fellow citizens and beginning to help them out of poverty. Or maybe one-tenth of the money the Feds dumped into bailing out AIG last week. But let's put the collider money into perspective. Here are a few other things we buy with that kind of money:

- A little over four years of domestic sales of Doritos.
- Approximately two-thirds of the annual gambling revenues in the state of Nevada.
- About three days of US oil imports.
- About a month's worth of US cigarette sales.
- About ten months' worth of US lung cancer treatment costs. (A worthy effort to be sure, but one that wouldn't be nearly as costly if it weren't for the cigarette numbers above.)

What's my point? The collider's broken. It may or may not come close to the goals and dreams its many scientists aspired to reach. But the only gamble here is with money, and this is one that's well worth taking.

Peter Dykstra Executive Producer CNN Science, Tech, and Weather

Filed under: economy • Large Hadron Collider • Physics


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July 17, 2008

Three-way energy smackdown!!

Posted: 09:51 AM ET

A week ago, T. Boone Pickens rolled out his plan for using wind power and natural gas to lead America from the Energy Swamp. Based on your responses, some of you saw a visionary plan, and some saw a corporate swindler.

Source: Getty Images

On Monday, President Bush rolled back an Executive Order originally signed by his Dad as a first step toward re-opening all of America's coastline to offshore oil drilling. Some of you saw this as an overdue necessity, and some saw a failure of leadership.

Through much of the current discussion about oil prices, discussions about global warming and conserving energy have melted away. Enter former Vice President Al Gore, who's scheduled a speech at 12 noon ET Thursday. CNN plans to carry the speech live, but we'd love to hear what you think.

Pickens. Bush. Gore. If this were Professional Wrestling, it would be a Steel-Cage Death Match. The only difference is that our economy and environment could be at stake.

So blog away. Once again, we really appreciate the thought and diversity of opinion in the hundreds of responses. Just please continue to be civil with each other!!

Peter Dykstra, Executive Producer CNN Science, Tech, & Weather

Filed under: climate change • economy • environment


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July 15, 2008

What's wrong with electric cars?

Posted: 05:36 PM ET

Thomas Edison with his electric car in 1913.

They produce zero emissions.

Electricity is cheaper than gas, and can come from renewable resources such as wind and solar power.

EV engines are far more efficient than internal combustion engines, are more reliable, and require less maintenance.

So what gives? Why don’t we buy and drive electric cars?

Program Note: Watch Miles O'Brien's report on EV's on CNN TV, Thursday morning.

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Filed under: economy • environment • Fuel • Gas • Gasoline


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July 14, 2008

Energy questions for Republicans and Democrats

Posted: 12:18 PM ET

I want to thank everyone for the hundreds of smart comments on T.Boone Pickens and his wind/natural gas energy plan.

oil.rig

AFP/Getty Images

By contrast, the Pickens plan generated precious little feedback from policymakers and others you'd expect would have a direct stake in this. Not a peep from the White House, nor the candidates, nor Congressional leadership. Virtually nothing from the business community, or from environmental groups.

So let's keep our part of the bargain, and continue this great discussion. Today, President Bush is addressing another part of the Energy Hunt, by lifting a partly-symbolic Executive Order banning drilling off most of the U.S. coastline. Whaddya think? Is it long overdue? Or, as Pickens said, is it a problem we can't drill our way out of?

Posted by: , ,
Filed under: climate change • economy • environment • Fuel • Gas • Gasoline • Oceans • oil spills


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July 10, 2008

Questions for T. Boone Pickens

Posted: 12:00 PM ET

T. Boone Pickens talks energy on CNN in May

T. Boone Pickens talks energy on CNN in May

T. Boone Pickens, the legendary oilman, tilted at windmills the other day. With an extensive media campaign that looked a lot like he was running for office, he rolled out an ambitious scenario in which U.S. energy policy is turned on its head. His proposal: replace the 20% of our electricity supply that comes from natural gas with wind power - abundant and there for the taking from the Canadian border to the Mexican border through the middle of the country. The natural gas that's freed up would then replace oil as a major source to power our transportation fleet, according to the Pickens plan.

Pickens has an astounding track record at anticipating U.S. energy demand - including a prescient warning a few years back that oil was going to be mighty costly about now. Like the old E.F. Hutton ads, when he talks, investors listen. And if he says wind is in, investors will line up.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on his plan.
To start off, here's my own two cents (bear in mind that I could be out buying one-third of an ounce of gasoline with those two cents):

1. Pickens is neither an altruist nor a treehugger trapped in the body of an oilman. He sees money in this, and has been perfectly transparent about that.
2. It's a plan - at least a partial one - which is pretty much more than we've got now.
3. It may be a plan from a shrewd, battle-tested business tycoon, but it's probably not as easy as it seems. Wind energy gives out when the wind stops blowing, and there's no existing technology to store it in large quantity. Wind-dependent power plants would need a robust backup system. We'd also need a much better electric transmission infrastructure than we have right now, in order to move the wind power from the Great Plains, where it's available, to the population centers, where it's needed.
4. Wind as a main power source would have an uneven impact in replacing natural gas. About half of California's electricity comes from natural gas. In Ohio, it's about 2%.

Your turn - blog away: Is T. Boone Pickens a genius, or is he just spittin' in the wind?

Peter Dykstra Executive Producer CNN Science, Tech & Weather

Filed under: Cars • climate change • economy • environment • Fuel • Gas • Gasoline • Politics


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June 26, 2008

Gallons per mile?

Posted: 02:40 PM ET

It may sound backwards, but that is how two Duke professors suggest we gauge fuel economy.

MPG to GPM Conversion Chart

Richard Larrick and Jack Soll of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business say the phrase ‘miles per gallon' misleads consumers.

The premise of their study, published recently in the journal Science, is that you save more gas by switching from a 10 to a 15 MPG car than by trading in your 25 MPG ride for, say, a 50 MPG Prius.

If you're scratching your head, consider the following equation:

Driving a 10 MPG SUV for 100 miles requires 10 gallons of gas, while one that gets 15 MPG will burn 6.7 gallons of gas on the same trip. So the jump from 10 to 15 MPG is a savings of 3.3 gallons of gas.

On the other hand, the 25 and 50 MPG cars burn 4 and 2 gallons, respectively, on a 100-mile drive. That is a savings of only 2 gallons compared with the SUV driver's 3.3 gallons. You see?

So when it comes to saving money, Larrick and Soll say it's less about buying the most fuel-efficient car, and more about removing the most inefficient vehicles from the road. They recommend fuel efficiency be displayed as ‘gallons per 100 miles' (GPM) instead of the traditional MPG.

That way, instead of aiming for a car with the highest MPG, consumers would be striving for the lowest GPM rating.

The point is to help consumers easily understand the amount of gasoline they will save when they trade in a car.

It's simple math. To calculate gallons per 100 miles, simply divide 100 miles by the vehicle's MPG rating. However, this calculation is not one consumers seem to do when considering a new car.

For example, Larrick and Soll asked participants in their study to decide whether replacing 15 MPG vehicles with 19 MPG ones was better or worse than exchanging 34 MPG vehicles for those with 44 MPG ratings.

Groups given the vehicles fuel efficiencies in MPG chose the wrong answer of 34 to 44 MPG 75% of the time. On the other hand, people given fuel efficiency choices in GPM made the wrong decision only 36% of the time.

So yes, it's still true that driving vehicles with the highest fuel efficiency possible is still best for the environment, but as gas prices rise will consumers be making their trade decisions for Mother Nature or their wallets? If it's the latter, they may need GPM instead of MPG to make the best choice.

Test your MPG understanding at: http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/news/mpg/mpg.html

- Julia Griffin, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: Cars • economy • environment • Fuel • Gas • Gasoline • Uncategorized


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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